VANCOUVER – In an international exhibition men’s volleyball match, the UBC Thunderbirds were defeated in straight sets at the hands of Sungkyunkwan University (SKK) on Saturday evening at War Memorial Gymnasium. Set scores were 25-18, 25-22, and 25-21 in favour of the team from South Korea.
Fourth-year left-side Ben Chow was named UBC’s player of the game for his 10 kills.
“[SKKU] played very aggressively,” said Chow, who attacked at an efficient 56 per cent. “Their offensive combinations made it difficult for our block.”
Due to the technical prowess of SKK, UBC’s defence was hard pressed to make plays against the Korean attackers.
“SKK executed offensively at a high level,” said fourth-year setter Milan Nikic. “Not a lot of teams in Canada West run the system that they run, and especially not at that level.”
With only 22 team digs for UBC in the match, SKKU’s right-side Byend Uk Kim and left-side Bean In Ho combined for 31 kills in the three-set match, effectively placing forceful attacks that consistently eluded UBC’s defence.
“It’s good to see that style of play,” said Chow. “We can keep that in our back pockets heading back into the [Canada West] season.”
Saturday’s match concludes the visit to Canada for the Korean team, who arrived on January 2 and played matches against UBC, Trinity Western, and Douglas College.
Dr. Han-Joo Eom, a former SKK and UBC athlete, was instrumental in founding the now 30-year relationship between the two schools.
“A long time ago the level of volleyball of SKK was a lot better than UBC, but now the levels are pretty much equal,” said Eom, a professor in sports statistics at SKK who also holds a Masters degree and a Ph.D from UBC. “Both teams benefit from playing each other – sharing their thoughts and experiences, and the way they see things differently.”
“SKK’s play is more fast-paced and technical, whereas Canadian volleyball tends to be more physical, with less ball control and more power,” said third-year outside Mac McNicol. McNicol spent over three weeks training with SKK in South Korea this past summer in preparation for the current Canada West season.
“We can learn from [SKK’s] technical expertise,” said UBC head coach Richard Schick, “and hopefully be motivated to work towards that level of efficiency.”
UBC will travel to Brandon to begin the second semester of Canada West regular season, and will face a team filled with international flavour.
“[Brandon] has two very technical players who put the ball where they want to, similar to SKK,” said Schick, referring to Brandon’s left-side Sam Tuivai of New Zealand and right-side Sebastien Steigmeier of Switzerland. Steigmeier sits fifth in the conference with a 3.83 kills per set average.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve played a conference match, so we’re hungry,” said fifth-year libero Ian Perry. “We’ve had a lot of time to make some improvements and work on some things, and we’re excited to get back at it.”??Perry noted the team’s high expectations in certain technical aspects of the Thunderbird’s game.
“If a free ball comes over, it has to be perfect,” said Perry. “If it’s an easier dig, the expectation is that it will be perfect.”
Perry and the CIS No. 6-ranked Thunderbirds will have four weekend series against some of the countries top teams to close out the 2014-2015 regular season. UBC currently sits fifth in conference play, yet only two games behind second-place Brandon. The Canada West playoffs begin the weekend of February 13.